Friday, June 21, 2013
"There doesn’t seem to be any stopping Jeff Widener on his continued journey in making beautiful, real photographs"
Via Peta Pixel
A chat with Jeff Weidener, the photographer behind 'Tank Man,' a photo that is widely considered one of the iconic images of the 20th century.
JW: Basically it’s a lucky shot from being in the wrong place at the right time. I had been knocked silly the night before from a stray protestor brick that hit me in the face and the Nikon F3 Titanium camera absorbed the blow sparring my life. I was also suffering from a bad case of the flu during the whole Tiananmen story so I was pretty messed up. Our Asia photo editor had been in Beijing for weeks covering Mikhail Gorbachev’s high level meetings with Chinese leaders and was anxious to return to Tokyo but unfortunately the night before the massacre. That left AP Beijing photo editor Mark Avery, New Delhi based AP photographer Liu Heung Shing and myself to cover one of the biggest stories of the 20th century. After sneaking into the Beijing Hotel with the help of an American college student named Kirk Martsen, I managed to get one fairly sharp frame of Tank Man from the 5th floor balcony of the Beijing Hotel with an 800mm focal length lens. I had run out of film and Martsen managed to find a single roll of 100 ASA from a tourist. The problem was it was 100 speed and I usually used 800. This meant that when I was eyeballing the light, I was three stops too low on the Nikon FE2 auto shutter speed. It was a miracle that the picture came out at all. It wasn’t tack sharp but good enough to front almost every newspaper in the world the next day.
I never dreamed the image would turn into a cult thing. I guess the first time I realized I had something was when David Turnley of the Detroit Free Press told me that he thought I would win a Pulitzer for the image. As fate would have it, David won it that year and I was a finalist. It’s funny because I recall being in the middle of a Bangkok slum that year and around the corner came a familiar face. It was Pulitzer Prize winner Stan Grossfeld who I had previously met. His first words were “Widener…you was robbed”.